Aldermen, supervisors debate split of funding for road work

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 12, 2000

More than coffee and muffins was on the minds of Natchez Board of Aldermen and Adams County Board of Supervisors members Wednesday morning.

The supervisors hosted the meeting to become acquainted with new city officials, Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith and Ward 2 Alderman James &uot;Ricky&uot; Gray. Talk soon turned to ongoing projects between the city and county, including the rebuilding of Government Fleet Road.

Smith told supervisors he needs their permission to move ahead with preliminary work being performed on the road by the city engineering department.

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In waiting for a possible grant, work on the project has fallen behind the projected construction timeline. The agreement with the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which supplied the grant, specifies that a contract must be let on the projects by September 2001 in order to retain the $1.5 million grant.

&uot;There’s a lot of work that has to be done before a contract can be let,&uot; Supervisor Sammy Cauthen said.

The joint project between the city and the county still lacks between $250,000 and $280,000 in funding, but several aldermen and supervisors said they are confident a recent grant application to the Department of Economic and Community Development will be approved. Community Development Director James Johnston submitted the application on June 26.

In a brief meeting with Gov. Ronnie Musgrove last week, Smith said he asked the governor to step in an expedite the grant review process.

Smith said the governor agreed there was an urgent need for the rebuilding of the road, which accesses the Natchez-Adams County Port and a number of industries. The two-lane road serves more than 100,000 trucks a year, and the sharp turns and ravines make it a dangerous route.

The agreement with MDOT also requires local government to provide 20 percent of the total $1.5 in matching funds. The county has appropriated $78,000 toward the project and the city has contributed more than $50,000.

&uot;We’re going to be embarrassed if (MDOT) offers us the money and then we, locally, not be able to come up with a match,&uot; Smith said.

Members of the board of supervisors agreed they could not sign off on allowing preliminary work to be done on the road until an agreement could be reached between the two boards as to how the cost of the project would be divided if the grant application was denied.

Representing the city, Ward 3 Alderwoman Sue Stedman and Ward 2 Alderman James &uot;Ricky&uot; Gray said they thought the cost should be split 75-25, with the county funding the bulk of the remaining $250,000 if the grant should fall through.

Supervisors Thomas &uot;Boo&uot; Campbell and Darryl Grennell agreed the cost should be divided evenly.

&uot;Down the middle or I won’t vote for it,&uot; Campbell said.

Smith pointed out the city had &uot;already gotten the big part&uot; by acquiring the MDOT grant. Salmon told Smith she did not think either board should take credit for the $1.5 million, that both had done extensive lobbying in getting the grant.

&uot;The feather is in both caps,&uot; she said.

Smith also said the city has already spent a large amount of money on in-kind work for the project.

Several members of the board of supervisors said that while they would not agree to a 75-25 split, they would consider a 60-40 agreement if they could look over City Engineer David Gardner’s figures on the amount of money already spent on in-kind work.

&uot;The bottom line is we don’t want to sabotage this project,&uot; Salmon said, adding the board of supervisors would discuss the matter at its Monday meeting.

Salmon also reminded both boards that a division of cost may not be necessary if the grant is approved as expected.

&uot;All of this may be alleviated with the next mail delivery,&uot; she said.